Small biotech CEO exodus continues as vTv, a troubled former Alzheimer's player, sees chief leave after just 4 months
It’s been a bad couple months for the heads of small, struggling biotechs.
On Friday, vTv therapeutics, a North Carolina company that once raised a $117 million IPO on the promise that it could resurrect an old Pfizer drug for Alzheimer’s, announced that CEO Deepa Prasad had resigned. Prasad had only been CEO since October, and no reason was given for the departure.
The longtime healthcare executive joins a small exodus of biotech chiefs, as a historic bear market puts increased pressure on companies strapped for cash and starved for investor confidence.
Last week, antibody expert and entrepreneur Tillman Gerngross left Adagio after Omicron poured cold water on the company’s billion-dollar plans to build a pan-coronavirus antibody. (And after Gerngross initially claimed the antibody would maintain protection against Omicron, sending Adagio’s stock briefly soaring.)
And this week, eye disease company Gemini Therapeutics named an interim CEO as it slashed 80% of its workforce in a bid to stay alive. Its former chief, Jason Meyenberg, joined Avalo Therapeutics’ CEO Mike Cola on the job market, after the latter left the struggling immunology-focused biotech in mid-February.
Other CEOs who have left their gigs for one reason or another this winter include Cortexyme CEO Casey Lynch, Silence Therapeutics CEO Mark Rothera, Blueprint CEO Jeff Albers, Spark CEO Jeff Marrazzo, NexImmune CEO Scott Carmer and Ribon CEO Victoria Richon.
vTv’s initial Alzheimer’s plans went up in smoke in 2018, after the drug performed worse than placebo in a large Phase III trial. The company has since stuck around as a penny stock player focused on a grab-bag of disorders, from cystic fibrosis to pancreatic cancer to diabetes. But in the last few months, as the market turned, the company has struggled to keep its shares $VTVT above $1.
During Prasad’s brief tenure, the company announced plans to lay off 65% of its staff and prioritize an experimental diabetes treatment.
Rich Nelson, vTv’s head of business development, will now be in charge of steering that program ahead as acting CEO. But it could be a tough road. As of their most recent quarterly filing in November, the biotech had just $19.6 million cash on hand.